It might seem disingenuous to subtitle a review of a film that some would consider a cult classic as “the one without Myers”, but given the large shadow Halloween as a franchise casts over it, I find it to be nothing but necessary. Because regardless of if you love or hate this film, it’s legacy seems to be just that; “the one without Myers”.
After Halloween 2 and, what was in 1981, the official and irreversible death of Michael Myers, the studio opted to turn the Halloween franchise into a horror anthology. In a similar vein to something like the Twilight Zone, all subsequent films would maintain the same tone as the original two Halloween films, but focus on different threats and monsters. But as of today, Season of the Witch remains as the only film in the franchise to have attempted this.
Resultingly it is the most different. For some it is a breath of fresh air, and for others a little out of place. For me it was a bit of both.
The film revolves around Doctor Daniel Challis teaming up with Ellie Grimbridge to uncover the truth as to why her father was brutally murdered before the killer proceeded to kill himself. They head to a small isolated company town to find clues, after discovering that her father was missing a shipment of Halloween masks from there, and witness a handful of suspicious things before confirming that the mask factory is doing some truly horrifying stuff. They try to call the police, but instead the factory captures them and locks them up. The two must then make a cunning escape and stop the factory owner from using a block Stonehenge to perform witchcraft on their Halloween masks that will kill all the children wearing the masks in a form of ritual sacrifice when they view a TV ad that the company airs on Halloween night.
It’s truly a bizarre watch. The first 20 minutes surrounding the murder of Ellie’s father and the immediate response to it is pretty good, with a decent amount of intrigue and a handful of minor character moments, as is the last 30 minutes of their exciting escape from the factory. But everything between that is just so rushed. For instance, not a week after her father’s death, Ellie begins seducing and sleeping with Daniel – an older man she has just met – despite them having no chemistry, prior interest in each other or any reason to other than the fact they’re sharing a motel room. Sure, we learn Daniel is an unfaithful man, but Ellie doesn’t seem like she should be doing this, seeing as she is distraught enough about her father’s death to go off chasing a huge conspiracy theory. It’s forced, quick and only exists so that we will say “oh no” when Ellie is turned into an evil factory robot that tries to kill Daniel at the end of the film.
But I think the worst part of the film is that it’s supposed to be this big conspiracy thriller despite having little to no investigation occurring throughout. Daniel and Ellie arrive in town, their neighbour conveniently and accidently kills themselves with a mask, which leads to them overhearing a suspicious discussion about it moments later. They then go to the factory and are kindly showed around by the main villain before being told to leave. It doesn’t really get good again until Daniel starts running around town trying to hide, in a sequence that reminded me of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It seems all the information these characters need is handed to them on a silver platter rather than earned or found and thus, exciting as the finale is, it does feel somewhat unearned.
The finale being a scene where Daniel calls the TV broadcasting station and begs them to pull the ad off the air before it kills all the children wearing the company masks. It’s a shame that it feels a little unearned because the scene is well acted by Tom Atkins (who is probably the best thing about this movie), and would serve as a great ambiguous ending, regarding whether or not the ad got removed, if not for the fact the movie was so lacklustre throughout what should have been the meat of it’s build up during the second act.
I think that branding this film as a “Halloween film” was both a blessing and a curse; On one hand it’s an original script that had a lot of potential, if only it were better executed, but on the other its legacy has more or less been reduced to “the one without Myers”, and thusly the one modern horror fans watching Halloween will be least interested in.
Perhaps it was because of a negative response to the film, or because of how little money it earned by comparison to its predecessors, or even both, but the franchise would return back to it’s slasher roots with Myers in the very next entry. Truthfully I did dislike this movie, but I wouldn’t have classified it as so bad that the studio should have immediately gone back on their decision to make Halloween an anthology series – I suspect that was a more financial decision. This was an attempt at something new, felt quite experimental and could have served as a good stepping stone to more original horror stories, perhaps even good ones. But at this point, all of that is speculation and the truth of the matter is that the destiny of Halloween would lie at the end of a butcher knife wielded by a man in a plain mask and industrial overalls.
Would I recommend Halloween III: Season of the Witch? Well yes, if you do find yourself longing for something different so long as you don’t expect too much out of it. If you go in and forget this is a part of the Halloween franchise, you may even be pleasantly surprised. But no if you’re expecting something conventional or on the same level of quality, story and premise aside, as those that came before it.
At the end of every Halloween review I will be ranking the movies I’ve seen so far from best to worst. Find the updated list below:
- Halloween (1978)
- Halloween 2 (1981)
- Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)